With the final episode of Sanditon airing this past February, fellow Masterpiece Romance fans such as myself may wonder how to fill that new void on Sunday evenings. (In these times of social distancing, you may wonder how to fill the void of many evenings). As a Day 1 Downton Abbey fan, reaching the season finale of any PBS Masterpiece Romance often tastes bittersweet. What are we supposed to sip tea and eat baked goods to if not a Masterpiece Romance? Thankfully that’s where books come in!
As PBS releases new shows, our To-Be-Watched queues will fill again. However, if you’d like to live within your favorite Masterpiece Romances a bit longer, check out these books. Romantic novels often help comfort me, especially during this current period of social-isolation we face. I hope one of these may provide solace to you too.
In need of a regency romance with a plucky heroine like Sanditon’s Charlotte Heywood? Look no further than Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson. Marianne Daventry happily accepts an invitation from her twin Cecily to join her at the English estate Edenbrooke. While Cecily sets her sights on Edenbrooke’s heir, Marianne relishes her escape from stifling life in Bath. Marianne’s near scrapes with danger and hilariously awkward moments with a new acquaintance make for a surprisingly fun rom/com adventure.
The Durrells in Corfu captured my heart with the hilarious, eccentric, and endearing Durrell family and their friends who became like family. If you’re missing those quirky family dynamics I highly recommend The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty, author of Big Little Lies. Much to her astonishment, Sophie Honeywell inherits the home of her ex-boyfriend’s late aunt on Scribbly Gum Island. The home lies awkwardly close to her ex-boyfriend’s entire family, who run a tourist attraction about the Munro Baby mystery. Though lacking a charming cab driver like Spiro, the idyllic island setting and themes of motherhood and family make for a perfect follow-up read to The Durrells.
Downton Abbey drew me in with its focus on both the upstairs and downstairs lives of the estate’s people. Stacey Lee’s The Downstairs Girl takes place across the pond in America, where Jo Kuan works as the downstairs lady’s maid to a cruel daughter of Atlanta high society. Channeling the journalist spirit of Lady Edith, Jo secretly writes under a pseudonym for the “Dear Miss Sweetie” advice column. In the vein of The Help, Jo’s popular column grows into an avenue for her to speak out against social injustice.
If you’re looking for another story with a strong female royal and steeped in history and politics, check out Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez. Intertwining themes from Bolivian history with magic and romance make for a thrilling political YA fantasy. After Atoc the usurper overthrows her people, Ximena protects the last Illustrian royal by serving as the decoy Condessa. When Atoc summons the Condessa to marry him, Ximena goes in her place in true Queen Amidala style. With the help of her ability to weave moonlight into thread, Ximena begins plotting a revolución.
For those whose hearts panged for Ross Poldark as he returned from war only to find his beloved engaged to his cousin, Jane Austen’s Persuasion is just the balm you need. Anne Elliot nurses a broken heart after a friend persuades her to break her engagement to naval officer Frederick Wentworth. Flash forward eight years and Frederick, returned from sea a distinguished captain, reenters Anne’s social circle. Cue all the high school reunion feels.
If you loved Maya Hawke as Robin in Stranger Things Season 3, you’ll love her as Jo in this 2017 PBS miniseries. Upon finishing the show, check out Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Graphic Novel: A Modern Retelling of Little Women. The classic coming-of-age story focuses on the four March sisters as a blended family living in NYC. A modern lens over the well-loved family adventures, including a queer romance, makes for an exciting graphic novel debut.
While we wait with bated breath for a Sanditon Season 2, hopefully one of these books will find a place in your heart! Looking to further explore perspectives on Sanditon Season 1? Check out this Rioter’s thoughts! Curious which Austen heroine you are? Take this Jane Austen Enneagram Quiz!